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Rickpops’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 26 Dec 2012

Location: USA

MapMerry Day After Christmas!

During my time in the Navy Iíve spent several holidays away from home and some of them I was pretty down, but this holiday in Afghanistan has really been okay. My co-worker has missed Christmas with his wife and two little girls the last three years, so I really feel good about holding down the office and allowing him to spend time with his family in Virginia. I enjoy the job Iím doing, I like the people Iím working with both in Camp Leatherneck and Kabul, and I was able to see ďItís a Wonderful LifeĒ at the chapel in Camp Leatherneck before I left, so Iím doing fine.

On Christmas day I went in to work in the morning, as I said in the previous post. For the afternoon I was able to see Captain Mattimore one last time before he departs Afghanistan, he has been away from his family for one year, no breaks, and leaves in just a few days. I made it over to his place in Camp Phoenix, Brendan is the expert shopper/negotiator I mentioned before, we did a little shopping looking for those Christmas Day sales here in Kabul.

Brendan has developed quite the reputation as the precious stones expert in Camp Phoenix, he was literally called in on a couple purchases from some of his people while I was there. They call him up on his cellular and say "Captain, I'm thinking of buying 2.5 carrots of Black Diamonds for $60.00, is that a good deal?" We find the shop where they are located, Brendan sits down at the counter, starts picking the stones apart, pulls out his flashlight for closer inspection, he's like Quincy that damn medical examiner from the 1970s TV show!

The one purchase he reviewed, the store owner pulls out this new instrument, a "hardness" meter, and he puts it on the black diamond, it registers something, then puts it on the glass countertop, it registers something else...The customers are looking at Brendan, the shop owner is looking at Brendan, we wait in anticipationÖand then Brendan gives it his thumbs up! He walks in to the shops and he is like the damn "mayor", the owners shake my hand, they give him big hugs!

It is not going to be the same once he leaves Afghanistan, and I fear he's going to return to the FBI, take a walk for his morning coffee and start negotiating with the poor Starbucks lady....C'mon you can throw that muffin for free, I bought a $5.00 coffee! Do you know who I am? I was negotiating Black Diamond purchases in Afghanistan just last month, and you are telling me you canít throw in a muffin??? Ahhh back to reality, no more captain Mattimore, just Brendan the old government worker from upstairs...

So we had a great meal in the dining hall, got some photos next to a pretty sad looking Santa, and I'm getting ready to depart back to my humble room in Green Village, when our security team calls me and says "Camp Phoenix is on Lockdown, we can't get on the base without approval." All these times visiting Brendan I've never had a problem, now itís Christmas night and I'm stuck. So we walk around base, try to find the right guy to approve and of course Christmas night it is hard to find anyone in the office. We find one young LT in security, he tells me that I can walk out the gate to my security vehicle waiting on the other side, although he wouldnít recommend it unless I was wearing body armor. I told him, "Son, I was in Iraq during the surge with General Petreaus when you were still a glimmer in your Daddyís eye, I donít need no stinking body armor." (okay maybe he was in high schoolÖ)

So we agree thatís the fastest method to leave the base, phone calls are made, my security vehicle is outside the gate and Brendan walks me down to the guard shack and itís like a damn prisoner exchange in the beginning of the Angelina Jolie movie SALT! The guard shack is as far as Brendan can go, so he gives me a man-hug, a young Sgt in full body armor and weapon walks me down the long road to the end where I can see our SUV waiting for me, I am like "this is so damn cool, I can't wait to tell everyone back home!" I really wanted to make a run for it the last 50 feet but thought they may not find the humor in all that...And then we drove home.

So how did Christmas go at your house? Did any of the kids spill anything at the table? Did you do any tough negotiating for the last piece of pie? Ahhh I'm sure you have some crazy stories for meÖ just let me know!

Happy Holidays

Rambo Rick